Apr 1 2009 2:47pm

TÖRdötCÖM’s plans for ebooks

 We’ve been hemming and hawing for the better part of six months, telling you that there are “things happening”, and that there are “rumblings”, and other stupidly cryptic crap like that. So I thought I’d talk a bit more openly about TÖRdötCÖM’s plans for ebooks.

You people have spoken, sometimes shouted (and cursed, and threatened, and cajoled...) that you want more ebooks, and that not only that, you supposedly want to buy them from us. With money (this is the part where we sat up and started listening). So over the past few months, we’ve been evaluating the market, focus-grouping our initiatives, and calculating our projected ROI from such a venture. We’ve also been working hard with our team of lawyers in order to suss out that magic-bullet: a rights-management scheme that serves our shareholders’ interests best.

We’ve been doing research into book piracy, working hand in hand with the newly-minted BPAA, who have brought the expertise and forward-thinking, clear-eyed objectivism we’ve come to know from its sister organizations, the RIAA and the MPAA.

Some of us have been charged with looking into formats and workflow, and with trying to figure out what won’t work in terms of readability, interoperability, and general usability.

This has led us to several conclusions which I’d like to share with you. Our conclusions are simple: ebooks are for chumps, and we’re not gonna waste our time pandering to a handful of alpha geeks with aggrandized senses of entitlement, who can’t possibly be bothered to read books on anything that’s not bright and shiny.

Let me break this down for you, and explain how we came to our conclusions. I think that by the time I’m done, you’ll agree with us.

First, the production process associated with creating ebooks is an incredibly complicated procedure, involving arcane incantations in PERL, convoluted HTML programing, and possibly a sacrificial chicken or two (depending on the day). Churning out one copy of one title as an ePub file is a herculean task that took our intern (Stuy High School represent!) no less than three weeks for the three books she actually tried to convert into ebooks. That’s just a pain in the ass. Additionally, once we realized that this ebook-conversion process effectively cuts our printers, binders, and warehousers out of the equation, we realized that this change would hit us where it hurts the most: those three-martini lunches our printer’s reps take us out for on a weekly basis. No thanks, dude. I’ll take mine shaken, not stirred. And three olives.

We’ve also been looking into piracy, as mentioned above, and have come to some very worrisome conclusions. For starters, pirates are everywhere, lurking around every corner, waiting for one of our editors to slip up and leave a manuscript unattended for even two minutes, during which time the pirate will either sneak into said editor’s office via the air vents, or swing on a rope and into a window (knife between the teeth in both instances, of course), very quickly photocopy and OCR the manuscript in question, and sneak away before our poor hapless editor has come back from her coffee break. We’ve actually seen this happen—we’ve got video (no, we won’t show it to you. It’s copyrighted content, and you’re not allowed to see it).

After that, it’s off to the races: the pirate will retreat to their cavernous lair, deep under Grand Central Station in New York, where, lit only by torchlight and LED status lights, they “upload” their spoils onto “servers”, from which apparently these people can “download” the fruit of our hard work via “torrents” of data being piped into their very homes. Once a pirate has this “torrent” they can then apparently read at their leisure, on any device they choose. They can even pass along a copy to their spouse, or their friends! It’s scandalous. I mean, not only are people recommending books to each other, they’re freely engaging in federal crimes when they “share” these files! That’s just not the way things have been done around here. Any recommendations for books need to come directly from our marketing departments, worded in very specific ways. We have people who do this for a living: they craft press releases and ad copy that is specifically designed to entice you into buying the big, front list books that we want you to buy, not some mid-list flop that your boy Herbie tweeted to you about.

Under the magnanimous tutelage of the BPAA, and its sister organizations the RIAA and the MPAA, we’ve come to recognize that piracy is a huge problem, and that it will gut our profits as former buyers become sharers, enthralled by this pirate mafiaa that traffics in stolen goods. Plus, don’t forget: every time a pirate steals a file, a terrorist gets a new AK-47. Is that what you want for your children? Of course not, and neither do we. Our children are safe at our well-appointed homes on the Upper West Side, being watched over by our Swedish au-pairs while we go out on those three-martini lunches I was telling you about. We’d like to keep them that way.

After all this arduous research, we still weren’t quite convinced that this ebook business was all bad. And then we took delivery of a Kindle 2. Boy, was that a disaster! Reading on a screen is downright painful. After five minutes of trying to read on the Kindle, my eyes felt like kindling. Besides, you can’t take it to the beach, or to the bathtub, because you’ll instantly be electrocuted—it is a piece of electronics, after all. That’s not even the half of it: When we complained to the people at Amazon about the horrible reading experience they told us that we could actually have the Kindle read a book to us, in a human voice! We tried it out, and sure enough, there was the voice of God Himself, Morgan Freeman, reading from the Eye of the World (yeah, we’ve got e-versions of all the WoT books—even the ones that Sanderson hasn’t finished yet—locked away in a vault, ready to be read—and no, you can’t have them. Ever). Of course, this is a huge breach of copyright, so we called our lawyers, who were more than happy to raise a big, big stink, as you may have heard about. It’s what we pay them for, after all.

So in the end we realized that this ebook fad really isn’t for us. For the most part, we’ve decided to sit this out, and wait till The Market comes full circle, because, as we all know, The Market self-regulates and has an extraordinary knack for making sure that big corporations make many millions of dollars in profits, regardless of economic conditions.

However, we do realize that a large part of our readership consists of the aforementioned alpha geeks who can’t possibly be bothered to read books on anything that’s not bright and shiny, so we’re willing to throw you a bone: starting today, we do, in fact, have ebook versions of all our titles available. All you have to do is come down to the Flatiron Building in NYC, where we’ll have our patented, trademarked, copyrighted, and bolted-down-to-the floor TÖRdötCÖM Rëedin’Stäishüns set up right in the building. Just go down into the sub-basement of the Flatiron and look for the disused lavatory with the “Beware of the Dragon” sign hanging on the door. These machines will be available to you on weekdays from 9:25AM to 9:35AM; again from 2:44PM to 2:54PM; and yet again from 5:23PM to 5:33PM  EST (except for holidays), and, for the attractive fee of $49.99 USD per book, will display the book of your choice one page at a time, each page lingering in your field of vision for a period of five to seven minutes. Except for the WoT books. we’ve already told you: you can’t have those. Ever. No, we don’t have to give you a reason, our contempt for our customers is reason enough.

And to all those apologists out there who love all this open-source, creative commons, hippie-dippy ‘culture of sharing’ crap, quoting Cory Doctorow and Lawrence Lessig left and right: Give me a break. Doctorow’s a hack. He’s up there in his little ballon, with his silly cape, blogging about hippie hacker communes making toast with lasers and arduino boards, and zombies. You’re gonna listen to some guy who writes about zombies? Really? Come on. And Lessig? Don’t even get me started on Lessig—he’s to busy hamming it up on the Colbert Report and trying to bring down the government these days. Besides, he’s a university professor. What does he know of running a business? Of making a profit? Lessig: stick to your ivory tower and leave the profit making to the professionals.

So come on down to the TÖRdötCÖM Rëedin’Stäishüns and join the revolution. Hell, we’ll even throw in a free beer.

Richard Fife
1. R.Fife
So... one must be 21 to use the Rëedin’Stäishüns? I mean, free beer...

Anyway, I whole-heartedly agree, but perhaps we can take a leaf from Wizards of the Coast, and start having rare "foil" books. That way, the alpha-geeks get their bright/shiney. Of course, we can then turn books into a CCG, and then an MMO based on the CCG where the more you pay, the more advantage you have in both.

Yes.... *steeples fingers*

On a side note, in my Engineering Ethics class in college, my research paper/class report was on why the Open-Source movement would lead to the stagnation and downfall of the technical industry. How messed up is that?
Ken Neth
2. neth
man, I so wish this article was for real
Richard Fife
4. R.Fife
breaking news! A pack of industrious kiwis have just announced via the Signal that they have found a vulnerability in the Rëedin’Stäishüns. Apparently, there is a buffer overflow error in Song of Ice & Fire that will allow you to not only load linux on the Rëedin’Stäishüns, but also access the WoT ePubs.

An unreliable source has commented hearing TÖRdötCÖM staff muttering "Why the heck didn't we go with Mac?"
Pablo Defendini
5. pablodefendini
What?? That can't be, we have dragons watching those machines.
Richard Fife
6. R.Fife
My understanding of the Signal article was that the kiwis didn't actually go into the lavatory, but instead used infrared signals and tin-foil for their access.

There also is the possiblity that this is an *dun-dun-dun* inside job.
Nina Lourie
7. supertailz
The dragons got left alone with the beer, dude.
Torie Atkinson
8. Torie
@ 4 R.Fife
An unreliable source has commented hearing TÖRdötCÖM staff muttering "Why the heck didn't we go with Mac?"

Don't be silly, we're Fandom Mach Two now.
9. EternalKyr
Holy Umlaut Overload, Batman!
Pablo Defendini
10. pablodefendini
::head slap:: man, those bastards told me they'd been on the wagon for years.

As for the inside job, we're looking into that. Apparently Randall Munroe's outfitted Cory's ballon with an on-board teleportation array. More to come.
Lannis .
11. Lannis
BAHAhaha! You guys are funnier than the article! Thanks! :)
Nina Lourie
12. supertailz
@pablod I hear you let a pirate into the building last weekend...could be related. Jus' sayin' I hear pirates are grrreat at getting Dragons off the wagon. (Which, I will totally claim in my defense, was a complete lie. Those dragons put away more fire-whiskey that evening than I can drink in my life.)
Bill Siegel
13. ubxs113
Don't even joke about not letting us read the last WoT books.
Torie Atkinson
14. Torie
@ 13 ubxs113

Pablo here is being needlessly dramatic. Of course you'll be able to read them! Rumor has it Tor intends to publish them in bimonthly chapbooks of 140 character snippets, each purchasable for the low, low price of $9.95.
Richard Fife
15. R.Fife
Breaking News!

A band of pirate-kiwis have been found murdered in their plush New Village condo. The poor, defenseless birds appear to have been brutally tortured before the final kill stroke, and one crime scene investigator was noted as having said "I have never seen so many umlats painted in blood in my life!"

Police have commented that this was made to appear to be a botched burglary, although the only property that seems to have been taken was a laptop computer modified with a tin-foil antenna. Further information is being withheld as sensitive to the investigation.

"We'll get these cold blooded killers," said Police Sergeant Darby O'Connel. "You mark my words."

Elsewhere, a customs agent was found bludgened in the container yards along the Hudson River. The official police report says the agent was assaulted when he found a container of contraband Irish Wyverns. Customs and Boarder Patrol declined to comment.

More as it develops.
Bill Siegel
16. ubxs113
@ 14 Torie

I find that distressingly reassuring...
Paul Howard
17. DrakBibliophile
Dear Pablodefendini, those dragons guarding those machines have friends who like ebooks and are willing to share.

A Ebook Loving Dragon
Pablo Defendini
18. pablodefendini
Harrumph. Those dragons came really highly recommended by Roy Blount Jr. over at the BPAA. They even feature them on their website (although they are in disguise—they are the ones wearing the bowling shirts). I may have to give Mr. Blount an earful. Or maybe I'll have a Kindle read him the earful, instead.
Richard Fife
19. R.Fife
It would seem that the police have arrested Ron Paul for suspected involvement in the kiwi-massacre. The laptop is still at large. Mr. Paul is quoted has saying, "It's a revolution, baby!"

In other news, a descrete craigslist ad has been put out offering pre-release versions of the A Memory of Light. Shortly after being posted, Stephenie Meyer released a news post that she would stop work on the series. Her publisher and agent both were confused by this, but merely nodded and said it was best to not upset her and that she was having one of her "good" days.

So, um, who wants a copy of AMOL?
Paul Howard
20. DrakBibliophile
Dear Pablodefendini, poor Mr. Blount thought he was giving you a good recommendation. It is almost too easy for dragons to fool humans.

A Ebook Loving Dragon
Pablo Defendini
21. pablodefendini



Yes, I think I'm starting to understand that. I tried emailing Mr. Blount, but found that he has no email address—I could only reach him by telegraph. Once I finally got a hold of him, though, he still swore by his dragons' temperance, moral rectitude, technical acumen, and utter disinterest in the affairs of human progress. In light of these developments (and taking into account those big, shiny, and very efficient-looking teeth of yours, especially in comparison to the mediocre chompers on the dragons I hired) I'm beginning to think that Mr. Blount's "dragons" are, in fact, not dragons at all, and that the man is but poorly-informed, and has possibly even been hoodwinked.
Ankush Trakru
22. Quinty
Our conclusions are simple: ebooks are for chumps, and we’re not gonna waste our time pandering to a handful of alpha geeks with aggrandized senses of entitlement, who can’t possibly be bothered to read books on anything that’s not bright and shiny

Considering the fact that tor started off with ebook giveaways, which i am certain pulled in a lot of new users into teh shiny new, this comes across as ridiculously insulting.

You dont want to do ebooks because it's not making economic sense, thats fine. What's this incredibly long-winded cr@p all about? atleast the balloon-mounted freak keeps things short.

the one really good thing is that you aren't planning on doing a half-attempt at the ebook question by churning out DRM'd monsters.

I am surprised other commentators have turned this comment thread into a word joust. the ebook problem needs a wee bit more serious attention, i daresay
Torie Atkinson
23. Torie
@ 22 Quinty

Either I'm too sleepy to see the satire, or you just unintentionally provided a punchline to this post's (albeit long-winded) joke.
Ankush Trakru
24. Quinty
@23 Torie

guess i did :) in my defence, i read it on 2nd April ...timezones, you know ;)

Apologies to Pablo! teh interwebs is a dangerous place this week
Fred Kiesche
26. FredKiesche
Too bad for the past 12-odd months this "joke" appears to be the only progress in getting Tor books out as eBooks.
Richard Fife
28. R.Fife
Books are made of paper... which is made of bio-matter, which is made of molecules, which are made of atoms, which contain electons. There, e-books!
Mary O'Dea
29. thorn
i finally learned that the idea of curling up on my couch at home in the evenings after work, with a print book and a nice cold beer, is pure fantasy. so there sit my print copies of the baroque cycle, and anathem.

last summer i read 'infinite jest' on my commute. i carried it all summer. i commute 1.5 hours each way. only 50 minutes of that is train travel; the rest is via the footmobile. did you know that 'infinite jest' -- the paperback -- weighs 3 lbs? i've owned my copy since like an hour after it came out. i moved it *twice*. for 14 years, there i was, not reading it; i even shuttled it with me to l.a. and back once. i finally finished it about a week after the author committed suicide. think of all those years when i could've been writing fan letters. but alas, too late.

you guys, i just can't buy print anymore, unless it's a cookbook, a craft book or for someone else. maybe one day i will have the privilege of reading the robert jordans. but no trees will sacrifice their lives on my account.

just make the e-books happen. soon. please.
Pablo Defendini
30. pablodefendini
Thorn, all joking aside, I'm on the same boat, so to speak. Hell, I've even been known to buy e-editions of the free p-books I get for review, because my back can't take carrying around pounds-worth of books on my commute!

We're making it happen. Very soon. It's taking time because we're working our asses off to do it right. Gah. I wish I could be more specific with you guys, I hate being all evasive and cryptic and mysterious—it's no way to earn people's trust. Soon. Just... very fucking soon.
Blue Tyson
31. BlueTyson
Hey, PD, we've seen the err.. extended VS.

So VFS is definitely shorter than VS?


There's a Baen publisher quote on the Bar, so public 'waiting for final paperwork'.

Your pen pushers come in some hybrid of turtle and sloth? ;-)
Mary O'Dea
32. thorn
'doing it right'=eeexcellent.

in the meantime, perhaps someone there will nudge the lawyers, and whisper seductively into their ears, "perfection is the enemy of the good enough."

i shall continue to circle in my patient fashion.

Gary Young
33. Gary
Well, its been four months now since you predicted that TOR ebooks would be available "vfs."

Could you possibly give us an update?


Pablo Defendini
34. pablodefendini
Still working on it. Hopefully once it happens, I'll be able to make with the whole story, and you'll understand why it's taken so long.
Blue Tyson
36. BlueTyson
So, making a market, have to make

Not This Year

the favorite, at this point in time.
Gary Young
37. Gary
I've decided to harrass you at three month intervals. So I'm a day early. Sue me.


- Have you made any progress?

- Do you still intend to sell ebooks sometime in the future?

- Have you abandoned the entire process as not feasible?

Jacinta Lodge
38. stitchalicious
I'm hoping someone somewhere occasionally tracks comments on old posts and responds - I tried starting a new forum post a few months ago but it wouldn't let me actually write the post, I've tried via twitter, I've tried to find who to ask...

I've been trying to buy Tor ebooks for over a year. I'm based in Germany. I don't have any Apple products or a Kindle, but a great ereader I'd like to stock with paid-for books. I'm against DRM.

I've finished all the free samples Tor has put out and, just as Tor wanted, I want to buy more. In fact, I would like to buy the back catalogue of half a dozen authors right now.

Will you please, please, please take my money?

I can buy US printed paper backs in Germany via Amazon and any bookshop down the street. I have never read a reasonable explanation about why this is possible, but ebooks not. I'm *desperately* trying to shove money onto publishers and authors. I've sat in front of bittorrent, finger hovering over the download button, and decided against it because I *want* to pay people for their work.

Can you please tell me how?
Fridrik Skulason
39. frisk
I am sad to see there is no "serious" discussion on Tor eBooks.

I recently got a decent eReader (the new one from Sony, to be specific), and now I want to fill it with books - then my wife can stop complaining about the heavy luggage whenever we go on vacation ;)

At the last count I own somewhere around 1000 SciFi and fantasy paperbacks...a substantial portion of those are either from Baen or Tor.

Now, I finished going through Baen's site - downloading their 112 (I think) free books, and actually purchasing a very substantial number of other ebooks from them - including over 50 that I already owned in the traditional "paper" form, but now I want my Tor books as well...and you folks just won't take my money.

The problem is that I am probably coing to cut back on purchases on books in paper form in the near future...which means that I will miss out on new Tor books, and you will be receiving less of my money than before.

I really hope this situation changes.
kathleen fennessey
41. kathyire50
when your house is full of books and you find an alternative to stacks of books, Kindle is a good resource. No more sneaking bags of books into my house, storing them in secret places, or buying the same book with different covers. Plus as I get older the books get heavier. I do hope you will join the future of books and sell ebooks. if not, thanks for the emails they are enjoyable,oh and I won a contest I think it was from ya'll. oh, you can read them at the beach, just watch where you put your libations and sunscreen.

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